Engaging with Electric Utilities - American Cities Climate Challenge
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Engagement Guidance

Engaging with Electric Utilities

Applicability:

Primarily local governments served by regulated utilities (i.e., those without access to retail choice In states where it has been authorized, electric retail choice provides customers the right to procure energy from competitive electricity suppliers other than their traditional utilities. ).

What?

Local governments can engage directly with their electric utilities to drive the creation of new solutions, adjust existing utility programs to meet community priorities, or influence high-level utility strategy.

Why?

As the electricity suppliers for many local governments, regulated electric utilities are often key stakeholders in municipal or community renewable energy strategies. Depending on state law, an incumbent utility can sometimes be the only source from which local governments and surrounding communities can procure renewable energy. Moreover, utilities are responsible for implementing state and federal energy regulations and requirements. This can include vital tasks like procuring or building new energy resources or developing customer programs on energy efficiency or renewables.

Since local governments are generally large electricity consumers in their own right and can act as representatives of their communities, they have the potential influence to bring utilities to the table and help craft mutually beneficial programs and policies.

How?

Local governments can meet with their utilities individually or convene larger groups which include representatives from other communities. Some local governments have chosen to formalize their relationships with their utilities through partnership agreements. These agreements, often created through memoranda of understanding (MOU), outline the clean energy goals of both parties and identify how they will work together to achieve these objectives. For example, by developing a new renewable energy or efficiency program or working toward enhanced energy metering and data access.

Resources

  • The NAACP created a Just Energy Policies and Practices Action Toolkit to provide support and guidance for groups working to create a clean energy future. Module 3 of this toolkit, “Engaging Your Utility Company & Regulators,” provides guidance on how public utility companies operate, opportunities and timing for engagement with utility companies, and strategies for this engagement.

  • This World Resources Institute paper outlines opportunities for cities to utilize partnership agreements with their utilities to achieve their energy goals and identifies common elements, considerations, and suggestions. This paper also includes links to examples of city-utility partnerships entered into by Minneapolis, MN; Sarasota, FL; Charlotte, NC; Salt Lake City, UT; Denver, CO; and Madison, WI (see Appendix A).

  • This World Resources Institute paper explores the potential to create greater alignment between utilities and their customers to deliver more transformation across the electricity system at a lower cost. To support this process, the paper illustrates how IRP requirements and practices vary across states and utilities, including how they incorporate stakeholder input. It also breaks down the major steps and elements of IRPs to help customers understand how they can engage.

  • This REBA Institute report provides an analysis of potential policies intended to increase access to and decrease the costs of renewable energy in the United States. The report evaluates several policy pathways for eight states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Virginia. Appendix C expands on the details of the three main policy pathways: (1) advancing state policies that would expand mandated renewable energy purchases for jurisdictions (i.e., renewable portfolio standard (RPS)), (2) expanding utility subscription programs for renewable energy, and (3) introducing retail supply choice.

To review examples of local governments that have utilized one or more engagement pathways to advance their renewable energy goals, visit the Engagement Tracker in the Local Government Renewables Action Tracker.

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